The Quadriennale was established in 1927 through a resolution issued by the Governorate of Rome. Its institution, promulgated the following year, was part of an ambitious plan for the reorganization and rationalization of exhibition initiatives throughout the country.
The first two exhibitions (1931 and 1935) were a huge success and paved the way for the institution of the Quadriennale d’Arte autonomous institution in 1937. Participation in the exhibitions was by invitation and application.
In 1948, after the war, the Quadriennale re-emerged at the Galleria Nazionale d’Arte Moderna under the more generic title ‘Rassegna Nazionale d’Arti Figurative’. The organization was entrusted to a commissioner, Francesco Coccia, but the aim of the event remained substantially unchanged.
In 1950, the historian and critic Fortunato Bellonzi was appointed general secretary and guided the destiny of the institution for more than three decades. The chairman at the time was the writer Antonio Baldini.
Bellonzi’s era came to an end in the 1980s. The new general secretary was the art critic Giuseppe Gatt, while the chairman was Giuseppe Rossini, then the director of the television channel Rai Tre.
In 1999, due to the reorganization of the public institutions operating in the cultural sector, the Quadriennale was transformed from an autonomous institution into a foundation.
The 15th Quadriennale d’Arte was held at the Palazzo delle Esposizioni di Roma in 2008. The critics on the panel were Chiara Bertola, Lorenzo Canova, Bruno Corà, Daniela Lancioni and Claudio Spadoni.